Learning process continues for Jackie Bradley, Xander Bogaerts

May 07, 2014 - 2:11 pm

Throughout the first month of the season, Xander Bogaerts has experienced the highs and lows inherent with a player's rookie season. His teammate, Jackie Bradley Jr., has already gone through a similar experience of highs and lows through spring training and April of last season. As full-time major leaguers for the first time, the duo has seen things at the major league level that were unheard of in the minor leagues. The significant increase in the quality of the pitching in the major leagues has already affected both of the youngsters. "I wouldn't just limit it to the quality of the off-speed [pitches]," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "It's also the execution and the location. I had a conversation with Jackie after [an at-bat in which he struck out looking against Reds reliever Manny Parra] and he said, 'Those pitches are unhittable.' They're unhittable because they're in spots in the strike zone that are well executed and quality pitches and I can say that without much reservation, I can say those guys are facing things for the first time in those key moments in the game that they haven't faced in the minor league level and that's part of the growing experience." Bogaerts, who sits for Wednesday night's game against the Reds following an evening when he left six men on base and went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts, has had his struggles at the plate with runners in the scoring position. Farrell says that the 21-year-old shortstop is expanding the strike zone with runners on base, rather than taking his patient approach with the bases empty. "There might be a tendency to expand the strike zone with him," Farrell said. "There's more expansion of the strike zone, especially up with the fastball and off the plate and away with the breaking ball and where we've seen a selective, patient approach with nobody on base, there might be more of a tendency to swing the bat with runners on base." Farrell says that the team is using these new experiences for the two rookies as an opportunity to help the players grow into their roles as key starters for a team with playoff aspirations. "There's been a lot of opportunities that [Bogaerts is] growing from," Farrell said. "They might not all have ended in a positive result, but I think you can put him and Jackie in a similar situation where they've been some opportunities and exposure where it hasn't always turned out in our favor, but we're hopeful and expecting that because of these challenges or experiences, they're going to pay dividends as we go deeper in the season."